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Bee stings

Definition


Disease: Bee stings Bee stings
Category: Dermatological diseases
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Disease Definition:

Bee stings in most cases are just annoying, and pain and swelling go away quickly. In most cases, to ease the pain of bee stings, home treatment is all that’s necessary. However, someone may have a more serious reaction that requires emergency treatment if they get stung multiple times or if they're allergic to bee stings.
A person should learn how to treat them if they get stung, and take the steps necessary to avoid them.

Work Group:


Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes

Symptoms:

Some of the signs and symptoms of a bee sting include:

  • Slight swelling around the sting area
  • A red welt at the sting area
  • Instant and sharp burning pain at the sting site
  • A small and white spot where the stinger punctured the skin.


Swelling and pain go away within a few hours in most people, and only cause minor discomfort.

ALLERGIC REACTIONS:
A person will have a more serious reaction in case they're allergic to bee stings and their symptoms can range from mild to severe. Although in some cases serious reactions around the bee sting area can take hours or even a few days to develop, however, in most cases severe allergic reactions to bee stings develop with minutes of the sting. In case someone has had only a minor reaction to bee stings in the past, it is quite possible that they will have a more serious allergic reaction the next time they get stung.

Some of the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction to bee stings are:

  • Chest tightness, cough, wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Itching or hives all over the body.
  • A large area of swelling (edema) at the sting site.


A severe allergic reaction to bee stings can cause:

  • Diarrhea, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting or other digestive issues.
  • Loss of consciousness
  •  lightheadedness
  • Anaphylaxis, which is a medical emergency. It is a full-blown allergy attack that can be life-threatening. Whenever someone develops signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis following a bee sting, they should seek immediate emergency treatment.

Some of the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis are:

  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Swelling of the throat and tongue or other areas of the body
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Skin reactions in parts of the body other than the sting area, such as hives and itching.
  • Flushed or pale skin. This symptom is always present with anaphylaxis
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • A weak and rapid pulse


In some cases, a person might disrupt a hive or swarm of bees, which will result in getting stung multiple times. But most honeybees or bumblebees aren’t aggressive and only sting in self-defense, which will result in one or maybe a few bee stings.
Africanized honeybees, which are a type of bees, are more likely to swarm and sting in a group, than are other bees.

If someone gets stung more than a dozen stings, they may feel quite sick. In children, older adults and people who have heart or breathing problems, multiple stings are a medical emergency. However, they are rarely fatal.

Even though bee stings are usually a minor problem that gets better quickly with home treatment, but a person will need medical attention if they have a serious reaction.

If someone develops symptoms such as lightheadedness, dizziness, hives, swelling of the throat or trouble breathing, which are symptoms of a serious reaction, they should call their local emergency number immediately. In case they were prescribed an emergency epinephrine autoinjector, they should use it immediately.

In case someone's bee sting symptoms don’t go away within a few days, or if they've had other symptoms of an allergic response following a bee sting, they should make an appointment to see their doctor.

Causes:

Bee sting venom causes pain and swelling around the sting area because it contains proteins that affect skin cells and the immune system. Bee venom can trigger a more serious immune system reaction in people with a bee sting allergy.

Complications

Complications:

Although bee stings have possible complications, but they generally don’t cause any serious problems and within a few hours, symptoms get better.

A more serious reaction can be caused if someone's allergic to bees, such as an anaphylactic attack, which requires an emergency shot of epinephrine along with a trip to the emergency room.

Because children are smaller than adults, fewer stings can create high levels of bee venom in the bloodstream, making multiple bee stings very dangerous.

A bee sting site may become infected, as is the case when the skin is broken. The risk of infection increases when the bee sting is scratched.

Treatments:

Even though home treatment is enough for most bee stings, however, a person might need to see their doctor or go to the emergency room in case they have more serious reactions. An allergic reaction or multiple stings could be a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.

HOW TO TREAT A BEE STING:
A barbed stinger is jabbed into the skin when a bee stings. To keep more venom from being released, a person should remove the stinger and the venom sac attached to it as soon as they can. The stinger can be scraped out with the edge of a credit card, a fingernail, or a pair of tweezers. However, the attached venom sac shouldn't be squeezed in order to avoid releasing more venom.

After removing the stinger, the sting area should be washed with soap and water, and a cold pack or a cloth filled with ice should be placed on it, which will help reduce swelling.
To ease redness, itching or swelling, hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion may be applied.

If itching or swelling becomes bothersome, a person can take an oral antihistamine that contains diphenhydramine   or chlorpheniramine.
Scratching the sting area will worsen swelling and itching, and it will increase the risk of infection.

A person will be prescribed an emergency epinephrine autoinjector if they're allergic to bee stings. During the season when bees are active, they should carry this medicine with them at all times. This autoinjector consists of a syringe and concealed needle; when pressed against the thigh, it will inject a single dose of medication. To make sure that it works properly, the epinephrine should be replaced before its expiration date.

Someone should make sure that the people closest to them know how to administer the drug, so that if they’re with that person in an anaphylactic emergency, they could save their life. A person might also be given an epinephrine injection or another medication by the medical personnel that are called in to respond to a severe anaphylactic reaction.

The patient may be recommended immunotherapy (allergy shots); in case they're diagnosed with a bee sting allergy. These shots are taken on a regular basis for a few years. They can completely eliminate or reduce someone's allergic response to bee venom.

Prognosis:

Not available

Expert's opinion

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